Diabetic retinopathy (DR) remains a major cause of blindness as the prevalence of diabetes is expected to approximately double globally between 2000 and 2030. DR progresses over time at different rates in different individuals with only a limited number developing significant vision loss due to the two major vision-threatening complications, clinically significant macular edema and proliferative retinopathy.
Good metabolic control is important to prevent and delay progression, but whereas some patients escape vision loss even with poor control, others develop vision loss despite good metabolic control.
Our research group has been able to identify three different DR phenotypes characterized by different dominant retinal alterations and different risks of progression to vision-threatening complications.
Microaneurysm turnover has been validated as a prognostic biomarker of development of clinically significant macular edema, whereas subclinical macular edema identified by OCT and mfERG appear to be also good candidates as organ-specific biomarkers of DR.
Hemoglobin A1c remains the only confirmed systemic prognostic biomarker of DR progression.
The availability of biomarkers of DR progression and the identification of different phenotypes of DR with different risks for development of vision-threatening complications offers new perspectives for understanding DR and for its personalized management.